It’s tough enough to run a business from a home office but adding team members can be challenging for even the most experienced leaders. This isn’t an exhausting review of Scrum, Sprint, Agile Project Management methodologies…blah blah blah. Just some nitty gritty – let’s get this done – tips.
THE TECHY BITS
My current setup
- Zoom (audio, screen share and video) – I don’t save the daily voice recordings. Ugh
- Dedicated conference call phone number – important
- Trello (project management – like online sticky notes)
Boom. Done. That’s it? Yes, that’s it.
I also really like Join.Me instead of Zoom. Avoid testing multiple online meeting platforms. Simply pick one and go on. Yes, you can change it later.
Let’s begin with the meeting before the meeting…wait! WHAT?
Encourage your team to update their projects prior to the meeting. This will help move projects along and address any backlog issues right away. Occasionally, this may involve team leaders quickly touching base with one another to make sure you’re all set. I know, more meetings. No one wants to be that one person who holds up the meeting because you didn’t include crucial client updates?
Keep track of projects using great online project management tools such as Trello (my fav), Asana, AirTable or Smartsheet (my least fav). The tool doesn’t matter as long as YOU and your team make it happen. Just because “everyone else uses GoToMeeting,” ZoHo, LiquidPlanner or whatever else, doesn’t mean you must. Stepping off my high horse…onward we go.
Continue the conversations as needed in Slack, Google Hangouts, or Cisco. This is great for follow-up questions, posting project guidelines, getting answers or silly memes that help the team vent their frustrations at client changes. Or a ridiculous deadline.
Try different platforms, for a hot second, but for the love of short-armed dinosaurs, keep it out of email.
Open the conference call (or room if in-house) 3-5 minutes early so your team can join when they are ready. Get the small talk out of the way.
Chatty people like me can get out their stories about local weather, last night’s Reds baseball game or Fantasy Football. Give them a chance to get to know one another.
Start. On. Time.
HAVE AN AGENDA
Follow an expected sequence of events so team members know when to chime in for their part. Distance members benefit from your screen share so they can follow online during the meeting.
You’ll find what works best for your organization. It makes sense to follow the project development workflow, for example.
A website development company may start use this order – designers, copywriters, developers, technical, support, client services, etc. (I’m not saying this is right but only an example.) Ad agencies may begin with design, development, what’s broken, or the best or worst click through rates.
Next, move on to new business, onboarding clients. Always check in with each member to make sure no one is overloaded. Missing project milestones is a huge red flag – this is your moment to identify, fix, move on.
Allow people to drop off as needed. Save the bigger issues for the end or “take it offline.” Not everyone on the call needs to know everything.
Make sure one person, one, is designated to take notes, update Trello cards, etc. during the call.
Agendas help you and your team stay on track without falling into stories about their mother’s neighbor’s cat with the funny Halloween costume. (real story)
KEEP IT SHORT
Look, we have shit to do. Distance contractors may juggle multiple projects. In-house teams have other calls to make. Everyone has their actual work to get done.
- 15 minutes – Sprint/Scrum daily calls should be 15 minutes daily.
- 1 hour – Weekly team meetings should be an hour. Trust me.
- 1 hour – Monthly/quarterly meetings for stakeholders limit to an hour…90 minutes if you must but keep in mind if these people are on the phone, they are doing other things and not paying attention.
WORKING WITH DISTANT CONTRACTORS/TEAM MEMBERS
Someone recently posted in a Facebook group that they keep track of their hourly contractors by using software that records their screen, watches every keystroke so that they are only paying for hours worked.
I almost lost it – nearly upchucked right on my keyboard.
Aside from the range of reactions about micromanaging, personal privacy and the lack of trust and respect…OK, too soon. I can’t go there.
Trust your people. Respect your team members.
A recent FlexJobs report found that 65% of workers are more productive at home. Working with teams and individuals across the globe while working from a home office nearly my entire adult career, I can definitely vouch for this.
Numerous studies highlight dispersed team workers, those who are not in your physical office, well, get shit done.
Most work when their kids are in school, have dedicated child care or a certain number of hours before the next thing in their life. No one has time to dilly dally watching Netflix while billing you per hour.
I’m not saying it doesn’t happen.
Also not saying that I haven’t folded laundry while listening in on an hours long meeting waiting for my 2 minutes of fame.
Best Advice: You’re paying for project completion. Don’t pay per hour. Pay for value. Let’s say the contractor quoted 4 hours at a set rate to get something done. If it took 3.25 or 8, that’s on the contractor. You’re paying for expertise and efficiency.
Don’t worry about it.
THE FUN STUFF
Open the conference call line or conference room a few minutes early so team members. Allow them time to chit chat about silly stuff, get to know on another. Form a bond.
My calls usually start early by chatting about the weather….Anyone who has been on a call with me is probably laughing right now – they know it’s true. Most likely a Midwest thing.
It’s silly but it gets people talking. If you have your meetings first thing of the day, often work-from-home contractors may not have talked to anyone before that moment. Most likely haven’t talked to a human all day. Get those groggy voices talking!
Weather is a topic everyone shares. It’s fun to share that we have 15” of snow when someone in New Zealand has 44 degrees C. It’s an ice breaker.
Sharing Silly Pet Pictures
I was a consultant on a team with in-house members in four US states plus several at-home distance contractors. Our weekly Friday hour-long meetings were one big roll-up of what was accomplished during the week and a look ahead at next week.
Love this format!
There were weekly themes and seasonal highlights. Particularly memorable ones were when members were encouraged to send in pictures of their pets wearing Halloween costumes, their families celebrating a holiday or team photos at industry events. Putting a face with a name was fun!
Highlight a Job Well Done
Your success depends on your team! No matter how BIG or small, highlight the wins.
Did someone spend an insane amount of time and attention to detail on a project?
Was there a big data point jump?
Is there someone who went way above and beyond to help someone else?
We all loved it. Save some time, even if 15 minutes or so, for members to share about themselves.
Help your distance team members feel like part of the team!
Running meetings takes practice especially if you’re shy or have serious anxiety. My first client meetings were a disaster. I was slow and couldn’t remember what to say which led to long, awkward silent pauses on the line.
Don’t like being on video during the call? Use only voice. Or hide your screen when you’re not talking.
We’re all human. We all mess up. It’s more important to have a happy team and deliver a great product or service to your client! Your first meeting will suck kind of like making your first clay pot. (Yes, that’s a Hank Green shout out.)
Now go out there and practice your awkward silence!